DePaul women’s rugby club levels the playing field

DePaul women’s rugby club lines up to kick-off. The team is winless, but are “scrappy” and improving, club president Cara Goad said. (Photo courtesy of DePaul women's rugby club)
DePaul women’s rugby club lines up to kick-off. The team is winless, but are “scrappy” and improving, club president Cara Goad said. (Photo courtesy of DePaul women’s rugby club)

One of the fastest growing sports in the United States is already here at DePaul in the form of the women’s  rugby club team.

For the past several years, the club has brought the sport that gave birth to American football to DePaul, traveling around the Chicago area to play teams in both tournament and fixture-style seasons.

Rosemary Onyeali, who has been playing rugby overall for four years, likes the way that rugby has encompassed some of the spirit of football, but how it also brought about a lot of new elements.

“There’s the spirit, the ball, the tackling, the outdoor playing field,” Onyeali said. “I like to think of it as the ‘mother of football.’”

The club aspect of the team allows for a lot of socialization between teams and teammates, especially since most of the teams that DePaul plays are in the Chicago area.

“It’s a really social sport,” Onyeali said. “You get to know the girls you play with, you get to know the other team and it’s all about camaraderie.”

Onyeali said the camaraderie among the team is a result of the tough, physical nature of the game.

“You lay your life out on the field, and if you make it out alive, you have best friends afterwards,” she said.

The club season is split into two seasons with one being in the fall and the other in spring. The fall is more competitive with the teams playing one game per week most of the time, while the spring is more recreational and can feature multiple games per week. The lengths of games are also different between the seasons, with the fall season having 80 minutes of continuous play, while the spring season is more lax and has different lengths of times separated into halves.

The club plays their home games at a field near Diversey Harbor, which is where three of their fall season games will be held. In the spring, the team travels more and can play against teams that might not necessarily be college teams. In tournaments, they’ll play against women’s teams and even national teams.

In the fall, the team plays in the Great Waters Women’s Rugby Conference in the south division. This conference encompasses teams such as the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Marquette, Loyola-Chicago, Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Illinois-Chicago. They play each of these teams once, three home and three away. They moved to this conference for the 2014-2015 season after previously participating in the Chicago Area Rugby Football Union.

The team has not won a match in their 2014 fall season yet, but club president and junior Cara Goad said the team is “scrappy” and showed improvement each time out.

“I’m always surprised at how well we’re doing,” Goad said. “Especially for having nine new girls out of 15.”

As club president, Goad works a lot with recruiting girls to the club. She also said that the club is always accepting new members and that there is no hard deadline to join once the season starts.

But first, she sometimes has to  break some myths about women’s rugby.

“There’s this misconception that we’re all 300 pound manly women,” she said. “No matter what body type, there’s a place for everybody. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re willing to try.”